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Florida death row inmate executed after Supreme Court refuses stay

[JURIST] Clarence Hill [NCADP profile; FLDOC profile], who was convicted of the 1982 murder of a police officer, was executed Wednesday in Florida after the US Supreme Court denied [order, PDF] his request to stay the execution. Five justices voted to refuse the stay; Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens would have granted the stay of execution. Hill filed a petition [JURIST report] Monday with the US Supreme Court after the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied [opinion, PDF] a motion to stay Hill's execution while he pursues an appeal arguing that Florida's method of lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment [text]. In a June 2006 decision in Hill v. McDonough [Duke Law case backgrounder], the Supreme Court held [JURIST report] that a death row inmate can challenge the constitutionality of a state's method of lethal injection [JURIST news archive] under 42 USC 1983 [text] even when all other appeals have been exhausted. The Court previously granted a stay of execution [JURIST report] for Hill in January 2006 to allow time to consider the case.

Hill's lawyers had argued [JURIST report] that the Florida system of execution can cause severe pain. Like other states that authorize lethal injection [DPIC backgrounder], Florida uses a three-drug system to execute criminals; the first of which acts as a painkiller while the second one paralyzes, and finally the third drug causes a fatal heart attack. A 2005 study [registration required] published in the medical journal Lancet [journal website], however, indicated that the painkiller may wear off before the inmate dies. AP has more.

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